BALANCE SHEET BLOG – HOLLYWOOD, FL


Adams Street: 2005
July 28, 2005, 4:16 PM
Filed under: CRA Districts, Development, Neighborhoods

Update 2011

The City hired a new Community Development Director in 2009, Victoria Johnson.  She arranged extensive meetings with the community before issuing a new improved Adams Street RFP in 2011.  Seven proposals were submitted and subsequently reviewed and ranked by a staff committee.  A complete update on the status of 2011 Adams Street RFP is on the official city website at this link.

Both 2005 proposals described below have died, unfunded and unbuilt.

July 28, 2005

Lack of due diligence and insider dealing are dogging Hollywood’s downtown development.  For one thing, developers lacking solid credentials keep popping up as beneficiaries of city subsidies, and recently we have had two city employees leaving their jobs to sign on with developers of city-sponsored projects.  The Adams Street Redevelopment Project falls right in line.

Background

The City of Hollywood recently assembled approximately 3.76 acres on the south side of Adams Street between 22nd and 24th Avenues in South Central Hollywood.  The purpose of this acquisition was laudable:  to buy out a slumlord and replace truly blighted property with new townhouses that would be affordable by working people.

The City issued an RFP seeking developers interested in designing and building approximately 60 townhouses on land acquired and cleared by the City. The closing date for submission of proposals was June 23, 2005.

Adams Street Affordable Housing

Households eligible for this project must have incomes that do not exceed 80% of the median income for this area and must not spend more than 30% of their income on principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.  Following these criteria, affordable townhouses in Hollywood today would sell for not more than $158,000.

The City will not convey the land to the developer, but neither will the developer pay land costs.  When the developer sells the townhouses, the City will convey a proportionate fee simple interest in the land to each home buyer.

Among many requirements in the bid documents is one that specifies three letters of reference indicating the developer’s experience in building “affordable housing,” a type of housing that must comply with complex federal requirements.  More about these references below.

Only two developers submitted responses to the City’s RFP, and both raise concerns. One developer team has a track record of non-performance and poor performance. The other developer has almost no record in affordable housing, appears to be over-extended, and claims as a partner a Hollywood resident who was on the city payroll at the time the proposal was submitted to the City.

Prospective Developers

One developer team submitting a proposal is Family Affordable Housing, Inc. in partnership with Victory Housing:  Gary Posner together with Cindy Meyer.

Victory Housing, at an Aventura location, is headed by Cindy Meyer, a builder and former chair of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.  Though not mentioned in the proposal, in 2002, the State Department of Business and Professional Regulation charged Ms. Meyer with “committing incompetency or misconduct in the practice of contracting” and she was sued by at least one homeowner in a Pasco County project she built and then abandoned.  The St. Petersburg Times reported at the time:  “Thirteen unfinished homes litter the neighborhood, along with 35 empty lots.” Ms. Meyer’s company, Aquilaco, ” had amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts because of unpaid subcontractors. The federal government also sought $30,000 in back taxes.”

And Gary Posner, the principal of Family Affordable Housing, is the “developer” of the so-called HART condo/retail project on Young Circle, which he originally presented as a way to endow the Hollywood Playhouse.  After selling the concept to the City Commission and Downtown CRA and receiving over $800,000 in loans from the City (“secured” by a third mortgage), Posner closed the Playhouse and recently told the City he does not have the money to provide the theater component, a default under his loan agreement with the City.

Posner was bailed out by Cynthia Berman Miller, then director of cultural arts for the City, along with staff of the Hollywood Art and Culture Center, who devised a renovation plan for the Hollywood Performing Arts Center for Posner to use as the theater component of his project which is now being re-worked to include this hastily cobbled plan.

The other Adams Street proposal was submitted by the MG3 collaboration: Gustavo Bogomolni and Marcelo Saiegh teamed up with Cynthia Berman Miller’s new organization, Creative Community Development, Inc. (CCDI).  At the time this proposal was submitted, Ms. Miller was a City of Hollywood employee, though she has since resigned from her city job.  She is also former director of the Hollywood Art and Culture Center and the driving force behind the Young Circle ArtsPark.  (Note: As of this writing, Creative Community Development, Inc. is not a registered corporation in the State of Florida.)

Ms. Miller has no affordable housing development experience but she does have her city contacts and is already working the Adams Street neighborhood (for this project and other possibilities) as both CCDI principal and as a newly established real estate agent in her mother’s company, NewStar Realty, Inc. NewStar opened a Hollywood office on Young Circle in May 2005.  While Ms. Miller was still on the city payroll, her husband sought and received a grant from Hollywood’s Downtown CRA for his new art gallery located in the same building with NewStar Realty.

Mr. Bogomolni provides photos of “custom housing” he built in Argentina, but appears to have no affordable housing experience other than a single project in Ft. Lauderdale. He has an astonishing number of housing projects on the drawing board in the Hollywood Lakes Section, most in conceptual stages only and none of them completed except for one single family house at 1152 Hollywood Blvd. (the yellow house with white “wings” on the south side of the boulevard).

Among projects claimed as track record by Bogomolni and his partner Marcelo Saiegh are the following none of which has been completed:

1710 Mayo Street (3 units – townhouses)
2009 Jackson St. (40-unit condo)
1011/1023 N. 17 Ave. (ll units – townhouses)
Golf Village Townhouses at 810 N. 17 Ave. (4 units)
Taylor Condominium at 410 N. Federal Hwy (92 units)
Filmore@the Golf, 416 N. 17 Ave. (9 unit condominium
Villa Italiana Townhouses, 1705 Johnson St. (8 units)
Golf View, Block 54 Hollywood (326 residential units).

Oddly, both of these proposals claim the HART project as part of their “track record.” The Posner-Victory Housing proposal claims the original HART concept – 400 seat theater, several restaurants, charter school, condos, apartments and parking garage as part of its accomplishments.  MG3 tacked on to its record a scaled down HART Project listed simply as 450 units – predevelopment status.

The MG3 proposal is skillfully written to include many desirable elements: community charettes, donation of equipment for a neighborhood computer lab, landscaping on the north side of Adams Street to meet neighborhood concerns, etc.  But one fact cannot be hidden:  lack of experience in the complexities of affordable housing development.

As for the required “three letters of reference demonstrating experience in developing affordable housing,” the MG3 group lists Cameron Benson (Hollywood City Manager), Carleton Moore (Ft. Lauderdale City Commissioner), and Ken Crawford (President of United Neighbors of South Hollywood).

The Posner-Victory Housing group lists Larry Leeds (Director of Planning, City of Dania Beach), Larry Stone, and Brett Zaroff (President of Bankers Mortgage Trust).

What do you think? Are either of these developers suitable for the Adams Street townhouse project?  Shouldn’t this key redevelopment be re-bid and advertised widely to garner interest from more qualified developers? Doesn’t South Central Hollywood deserve better — much better?  And for that matter, don’t we all, as Hollywood taxpayers?

City staff will be reviewing the two proposals early in September and making their recommendations then to the City Commission.

July 30, 2005

Cynthia Berman-Miller Responds … and So Do We

Dear Editor

Thank you for writing favorably about our proposal for affordable housing at Adams Street i.e. “the MG3 proposal is skillfully written and includes many desirable elements…”  But there are a few inaccuracies about our RFP submittal that I would like to correct.

You list Cameron Benson, Hollywood City Manager, as one of our affordable housing references.  Actually Mr. Benson is not included here.  The reference listed was actually Mr. James Carras, President of the Broward Housing Partnership.

You also failed to mention that one of the consultants working for my company (Creative Community Development Inc) who is heavily involved in this project and listed in the RFP document has a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning and has professional experience in affordable housing in her former position as an Affordable Housing Tax Credit Specialist for the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

Sincerely,

Cynthia Berman-Miller, Principal
Creative Community Development Inc.

Balance Sheet Response

We did not mention Ms. Berman-Miller’s consultant, Lisa Lorbeck, because her experience in affordable housing was limited to checking for compliance in tax-credit rental projects.  The Adams Street townhouses, on the other hand, are for homeowners and not a tax credit project.   The MG3 proposal’s track record on project-specific affordable housing is paper-thin, the inclusion of Ms. Lorbeck notwithstanding. But also problematic, MG3’s plate is heaped with unfinished and barely-begun projects.

Mr. Benson is listed in the MG3 proposal as a reference in connection with Block 54.   We regret that we inadvertently failed to mention Mr. Carras as an additional reference.

Finally, we have learned from Neil Fritz, director of Hollywood’s downtown CRA, that the two developers competing for the Adams Street project have joined forces on the HART project.  He tells us that MG3 and Posner (along with Patricia Peretz) are going half and half in a new entity now being created to develop HART.

MG3 Track Record:  The Missing Reference

One more note:  We spoke with James Carras, the reference Ms. Berman-Miller criticized the Balance Sheet for omitting in our description of the MG3 developers’ proposal.  He told us that he has NO KNOWLEDGE of the MG3 developers or Ms. Berman-Miller.  He knows only Ms. Lorbeck, a consultant working with Ms. Berman-Miller.  She was a recent student he taught at FAU, whom he recommends highly as a capable person who understands the concept of affordable housing.  He clearly stated, however, that Ms. Lorbeck is not a developer.

So now we are left a picture of MG3 that includes not only the slimmest track record in affordable housing development, but also one of its partner’s going to some lengths to make things look otherwise.

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